Truth Telling at Conferences
Over the years, I've attended many conferences. Each conference has a different personal value in my life and distinction. I've learned to value the little conversations at these conferences and the short bursts of information--either that I am giving to others or they are giving to me. I learn a great deal from the exchanges.
Some elements of a conference are recorded such as most of the workshops. At Mount Hermon, I gave two workshops. Originally I was scheduled for one then at the last minute several members of the faculty couldn't come so I substituted for one of them and taught an additional hour. For my additional hour, I taught Straight Talk From The Editor (or Agent), 18 Keys To A Rejection-Proof Submission. If it sounds familiar to you, much of the content is from my Amazon Short with the same title. I updated many of the examples in it and told some different stories yet the overall outline was the same. I brought some examples of submissions from my "strange but true" file which I keep just for these occasions (naturally not including the name of the writer or any way to identify this person). I had a packed room full of listeners and I thought it was well-received.
While the conference recorded the sessions, the audio people at this conference don't duplicate the talks on the spot and sell them to the participants. Instead, they take orders and mail the product later. I brought my Edirol R-9 digital recorder to the conference and recorded my own sessions. Admittedly it looked a bit strange to have two microphones yet it allowed me to record my own session. Before the end of the day, I had transferred the recorded file to my laptop. Why take that step? Because the Amazon Short contract is an exclusive arrangement for the first six months. I will cross the threshold of this date soon and be positioned to launch another product from my recorded session. It's a much more proactive step than I've taken in the past. Normally I pick up the recording, throw it into a drawer and do nothing with it. I'm learning to use these resources in other formats.
Back to my theme of conversations and truth telling. I asked one popular acquisitions editor at the conference from a large publisher about his work. He told me, "I love to acquire books but it takes such a high threshold to acquire a book. I can rarely find anything here." I followed up asking what sort of threshold he was talking about. In all honesty, he said, "I need a guaranteed sale of at least 60,000 books through the trade channel (bookstores and chain stores)." Yeah, that's a pretty high threshold and it would be rare for someone at the writer's conference to have that sort of idea. Not impossible but rare.
During another conversation, a seasoned author explained her frustration with one of her writing projects. From her experience she knew the book would meet a need, yet she also knew it would be a difficult sell to the traditional publishers. With this author, I encouraged her to try and different course of action. Can she and her co-author tap the Internet market and create a buzz with an Ebook that may or may not become a traditional book product? She felt encouraged about the possibilities and to try it after our conversation.
Several times writers approached me with devotional book projects where they had poured their heart and soul into the proposal and the writing. The writing was built on the anvil of difficult personal experiences. From my view, I told them that it would be challenging to place such a project with a traditional publisher. Why? Because it's rare for a publisher to take this type of book as a single book product. Instead the publishers are turning more to book packagers for these efforts. I encouraged them to look into approaching the packagers or working with the packagers and their idea. These authors were published in magazines but not books. Their book idea had merit but not in the way they were expecting. I hope they will learn from my hard-earned experience in this area. Yet I know each individual has to decide what they will do with the information and how they will apply it to their writing life.
With the millions of ideas and manuscripts in circulation, there are no easy answers for any of us. The key is to keep working on the storytelling and searching for the right place at the right time.